The collaborative study, involving scientists from 12 U.K. research institutions, universities and conservation organizations, is said to be the most comprehensive assessment so far of long-term changes in the seasonal timing (phenology) of biological events across the United Kingdom's marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments.
Led by Stephen Thackeray and Professor Sarah Wanless of the Center for Ecology & Hydrology, the researchers said they analyzed more than 25,000 long-term phenology trends for 726 species of plants and animals.
The study, among other things, found more than 80 percent of trends between 1976 and 2005 indicate earlier seasonal events. On average, the seasonal timing of reproduction and population growth has become earlier by more than 11 days over the whole period, but the scientists said that change has accelerated during recent decades.
"It is important to realize that this analysis doesn't identify which predator-prey relationships are most at risk of disruption due to changes in timing," said Wanless. "What it does do is highlight that the recorded changes need urgent investigation, particularly for species with high economic or conservation importance."
The study's findings are detailed in the journal Global Change Biology.